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Joe Maddon downplays the Cubs hitting three Cardinals with pitches

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The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry continues to gather intrigue. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon criticized the Cardinals on Friday when they threw at first baseman Anthony Rizzo, which was ostensibly revenge for Matt Holliday getting hit in the head with a Dan Haren pitch. Maddon said after the game, “We don’t start stuff, but we will stop stuff.”

As it happened, Cubs pitchers hit three of the Cardinals’ batters on Saturday while the Cardinals hit none of the Cubs’ batters. Second baseman Kolten Wong was struck by Trevor Cahill in the sixth inning, and he was hit again by Fernando Rodney in the eighth. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman issued a warning to both teams. In the ninth inning, Hector Rondon hit Greg Garcia. Both Rondon and Maddon were immediately ejected.

Maddon is playing it off as a coincidence. Via Sahadev Sharma of BP Wrigleyville:

We’ll never know the true intent of any of the three Cubs’ pitchers. But Rodney had a 2-2 count with the bases empty and two outs against Wong. Then, after hitting him, Rodney slapped his chest, a common way players show that they accept blame, as if to say, “my bad”. In the ninth inning, Rondon was ahead 1-2 on Garcia and hit him with a fastball that ran a little too far inside. It wasn’t that far away from being a strike and certainly close enough to merit the benefit of the doubt, even given the circumstances.

At any rate, the Cardinals used the HBP to kickstart a rally. Zach Rosscup replaced Rondon and promptly served up a two-run home run to Matt Carpenter to make it a 5-3 game. He would allow back-to-back singles before being replaced by Pedro Strop. Strop got Jhonny Peralta to strike out, Yadier Molina to hit a sacrifice fly, and Stephen Piscotty to hit a game-ending ground out, thanks in large part to a terrific diving stop by Addison Russell. If, in fact, the Cubs had thrown at Garcia intentionally, they learned their lesson by very nearly losing Saturday’s game because of it.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.